Editorial: What happens after Councilman Kevin de León’s apology tour?

Kevin de León and Nury Martinez confer during a council meeting.
City Councilman Kevin de León and then-council President Nury Martinez confer at a meeting Oct. 4.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

What to do with Kevin de León? In the week and a half since he was caught on a recording joining in a racist, divisive diatribe about colleagues, constituents and political power, the Los Angeles councilmember has been ostracized by his colleagues, stripped of his committee assignments and pressed to resign by the president of the United States along with the vast majority of L.A.’s political, cultural and community leaders.

Yet despite the overwhelming outcry for his exit, De León went on television Wednesday to say that while he’s very sorry, no, he will not resign.

It was the first public statement from the councilman since his initial apology after the leaked audio recording was reported, and at least there’s now some clarity on how much longer Angelenos will have to wait for accountability and new leadership. The answer? A lot longer.


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Sept. 8, 2022

It would be too easy to resign, “lay low and move on with my life,” De León explained in a letter sent Wednesday to council President Paul Krekorian. Resignation, he wrote, would only benefit him, not the people who elected him to represent the 14th Council District.

Instead, they’ll all suffer together.

De León will continue to be hounded by protesters who want him gone for his part in the secretly recorded conversation with former Councilmember Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gill Cedillo, who lost his reelection bid and leaves office in December, and county labor chief Ron Herrera, who, like Martinez, has resigned. His fellow council members will be left with an absentee colleague they don’t trust and don’t want around. And his constituents? They’ll be stuck for two more years with a hobbled elected representative who has little influence in City Hall to get anything done.

There’s little city leaders or constituents can do quickly to address the De León stalemate. The City Charter allows the City Council to suspend elected officials who have been charged with a crime related to their official duties. But for ugly, divisive behavior and self-serving apologies? The council can only censure their colleagues. Constituents can begin the recall petition process, which for De León would require 21,000 signatures to put a recall proposal on the ballot. It would be the third recall attempt against him.

In his letter to Krekorian, De León asked to be excused from council meetings in the coming weeks so he could “rebuild relationships” and take “professional sensitivity training.” Krekorian repeated his call for De León to step down, saying that was the only way for the city to begin to heal. Indeed, it’s hard to see how Angelenos can have trust in an elected official who lets loose behind closed doors, comparing his colleague’s Black son to a prop carried like a Louis Vuitton handbag, likening Black political power to the Wizard of Oz and making demeaning remarks about activists and constituents.

De León might think his statements Wednesday can buy him time to rally his remaining supporters, with the hope that the outcry will die down quickly. It won’t. De León’s denial means this ugly episode in Los Angeles will only go on longer.